New graduates join all those others in search of jobs

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 1, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Jametta Gilmore applies for at least two jobs a day.
It’s a pace she’s been holding steady since graduating from Livingstone College on May 5.
Although she spends countless hours each week scouring the Internet for jobs and asking around about possibilities, Gilmore has only been called for one interview.
And that ended up making her job search feel even more daunting.
“I saw what I’m up against, which is people with lots of experience,” she said. “I don’t have that much experience so I’m a little worried, but I don’t let it stop me.”
Robin Perry, director of career services at Catawba College, said Gilmore has the right idea.
She said graduates need to stay focused as they set out to find their first job out of college.
“From all that I have read, it seems 2012 is a better year for graduates than the last couple of years; but those years have been so bleak that it’s not great, just better,” she said. “I tell students this and I truly believe it: I think the jobs are out there. I just think it takes two or three times more digging and perseverance to get them.”
Perry said with the majority of applications being submitted online, it’s easy for people to get discouraged.
“That’s the downside to me. You feel like you are sending it into space and never hearing anything back,” she said. “I know it can be hard, but just try not to give up.
“You have to be patient; it’s not going to happen all at once. That’s a sign of the economy.”
The hunt
Gilmore and Megan Howard, a recent Catawba College graduate, are both looking for jobs in their fields but accept they might have to settle for anything that will pay the bills.
Gilmore has a bachelor’s in accounting and Howard has a degree in psychology.
Right now, Gilmore works part time at Lowe’s Home Improvement, but with a 5-year-old son to care for and a number of bills to pay, she needs to find a full-time gig sooner rather than later.
That’s why she’s applying almost anywhere in hopes that she’ll eventually land her dream job.
“If I could just get my foot in the door, I could always move up,” Gilmore said. “Maybe there is an accounting job in the company that could come open.”
Howard is taking similar approach.
She’s living back at home with her mother and said she’s anxious to find a job and get out on her own.
“Right now, I’m willing to take anything that would pay me, but I would really enjoy a job in counseling,” she said.
While Gilmore said she’s looking for jobs all over the state, Howard said her search has been limited to driving distance.
“I would love to move, but I don’t have to money to do anything like that,” she said. “It’s so expensive, I think I need to have a cushion built up before I go anywhere.”
Howard has yet to be called for any interviews, which is making her feel “very weary.”
“It’s scary and it’s difficult, it really is,” she said. “I have a bachelor’s degree, I did well in school and I feel like I should be able to find a job pretty easily.”
Both women said the silver lining is that they plan to pursue a master’s degree which they hope will give them a better chance of finding employment down the road.
A master’s would allow Gilmore to become a certified public accountant and give Howard the opportunity to get into the field of social work.
Experience needed
A roadblock both women have run into during their respective job hunts is employers seeking seasoned candidates.
“They either want a master’s degree or years of experience,” Howard said. “I don’t understand how I get experience if nobody will hire me.”
Both women have some experience but fear they lack the amount needed to earn gainful employment.
Howard, who minored in Spanish, had an internship at the Good Shepherd’s Clinic and continues to volunteer there now, helping Hispanic patients communicate with the staff.
Gilmore hasn’t had any internships, but she is certified by the Internal Revenue Service to be a tax preparer.
She said she no longer bothers applying for jobs that list criteria including several years experience.
“Jobs that I don’t seem qualified for I don’t even touch, because it seems like a waste of time,” she said.
But Perry said that might not be the right approach.
She said candidates need to remember that most job advertisements include what she calls “walk on water descriptions.”
“That’s the ideal that the company wants,” she said. “They are putting everything out there that they want.”
Perry said recent graduates shouldn’t shy away from a job they are really interested in just because the requirements seem too stringent.
“You never know, they could see something in you that makes them want to give you a shot,” she said. “The worst they can say is no, but at least you tried, and they could say yes if they like you.”
Perry said it’s also important to try to get that experience “wherever you can.”
Landing an interview
Gilmore said as she’s started browsing sample resumes online, she’s noticed hers is a bit plain.
“When I look at other people’s resumes versus mine, they are so out of my league,” she said.
Perry said it’s important for job applicants to be knowledgeable about the companies where they are seeking employment.
“I think you really need to study the website to know what they do, what their philosophy is, what their mission is to pinpoint anything you’ve done that relates to that,” she said.
Perry said that research should be used to customize a resume and cover letter for that specific company.
The cover letter is the first step, so Perry said it needs to be a shining example of how you can makes the company better.
“The cover letter gets them to read the resume and the resume gets them to call you for an interview,” she said.
And Perry said after applicants land an interview, they need to go in with the right attitude.
She said an employer once told her work ethic, problem solving skills and the will to help others succeed were the top things he sought in a new hire.
“Those are three things you didn’t learn in class, so that’s very interesting to me,” she said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.